Friday, January 16, 2009

You can never have enough. . . .

Oh, my internet friends, let me assure you, those are the most dangerous words to speak when you want to be organized.

How many times have I heard my clients say:

"You can never have enough extension cords."

"You can never have enough camisoles."

"You can never have enough spatulas."

You can never have enough yarn, plants, pictures of the kids, tools, spices, etc.

Please remove this phrase from your vocabulary.

One of the things that will teach you to become organized faster than anything else is to realize that yes, you can have enough of something and to learn just how much you actually need.

Part of organizing is learning how to prioritize what is most important. I'm not going to call that an easy task. Sometimes it takes a lot of wisdom. Sometimes it just takes good common sense. A good place to start is to ask, "How many do I need?" It's okay to just guess at that! How many extension cords do you need? I don't know, maybe two or three? Maybe four? That's how many I would need at the most, for my lifestyle. Maybe you need more because you are a photographer and need to be able to get your lighting gear to places far from an outlet. Maybe you live in a studio apartment that's so small any cord could reach to the nearest outlet!

Organizing is a personal task where you have to ask yourself a lot of questions. There's no one-size fits all option. Sure, there are averages and standard sizes. There are general organizing principles that are pretty good to know. I'm trained in, oh somewhere around seven distinct filing systems. They're all good systems, some are just more useful based on the way you think.

I have two main functions as a professional organizer. I help people figure out what systems and styles of organization are the most natural to them--which will ultimately be the most easy to maintain--and help them to understand what is enough and what is too much. Again, that's a personal decision. I once told a client I didn't care if he wanted to collect used toothbrushes, as long as that's what was important to him! (And no, he didn't want to collect them.)

So how do you figure out how much is enough? I'm so glad you asked!

When it comes to food, do you find you end up throwing out a lot of food because it has expired? Wait, let's back up. If it's been a while since you've cleaned out your pantry, it would be useful to take a quick look at the food at the back of the shelves and check the expiration dates. Please toss anything more than a year past date. I know that folks have different notions of how long things are acceptable past their expiration date, but those numbers are instructive. If it expired more than a year ago, it's just taking up space and it's more than you can use. See how much falls into that category. Also, if you have a lot of expired food at the back of your shelves, it could also mean that your shelves are too deep to see into and you lose track of what's back there. A quick solution would be to put empty shoe boxes (or something that size) at the back as space holders to keep things from getting lost in the depths. We'll talk more about kitchen organizing in upcoming posts.

How much is enough clothing? Ladies, I love shoes as much as the next girl! My personal rule is that the shoe must get worn at least once a year to continue living in my closet. Well, that rule applies to everything. Wear it or let it go to someone who will use it and love it. How do you know? A handy trick in the closet is to turn all the hangers so that the hook faces you instead of the wall. When you wear an item and hang it up again, put the hanger back on in the right direction. At the end of the season, you will see very clearly what you have and haven't worn. What about stuff in drawers? Do you ever reach the bottom of the drawer before laundry day? If you never run out of clothes, and can't remember what is below the top three items in the drawer, you probably have more than enough.

I'm sure you're starting to get the idea. Say it with me now, "I have enough!"

And know there are some things you really never can have enough of: time with the people you love, laughter, playtime with the kids and grandkids, and sweet words from your sweetheart.

Blessings to you out in blogland!


templework said...

This really hit home when our step-father passed.
We realize that life events can have a tremendous effect on people (i.e. the Great Depression) - we knew he was 'frugal' but I can't tell you how many old coffee cans of bent nails (he was going to straighten and reuse - someday) we cleared out of his 'storage shed'
when it was all cleared out we found out was actually a wonderful tack room that even had a working bathroom!!!

and that was just the tip of the iceberg...

Do your families a favor - and periodically review and purge!

GREAT post!!!

Becky said...

I agree with all of this except for one thing: the pics of the kids. :) Can't go around saying *that* to a mom! "You have enough pictures of your kids." Wha...? But there are solutions if space is the issue. Get a scanner. Make all those pics digital! And yay for digital cameras! Now I can have as many pictures of my kids as I want, and they don't take up extra space in my closet. Whew!

Jen said...

Ooooo! Can't wait for the kitchen post. And I like the thought about the drawers. When I was packing to move a few months ago, I ended up giving 5 or 6 pairs of jeans to Goodwill. I don't know that I'd worn them in years! :)